Week in Brief – May 13, 2018 – May 19, 2018

05/21/2018 . By TIMEP

Summary

  • Five representatives recently traveled to Europe to meet with Representative Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat, who has been increasingly critical of the closed political landscape. House of Representatives Speaker Ali Abdel ‘Al condemned this trip, describing it as an attempt to overthrow the parliament; Abdel ‘Al referred the five representatives to the internal Ethics Committee for investigation.
  • The killing of over 60 Palestinian protesters at the hands of Israeli forces, coinciding with the opening of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem, sparked outrage in the House. Representatives and political parties decried Israel’s violence and condemned the new embassy as a violation of international law.
  • The Free Egyptians Party (FEP) removed Alaa Abed from his position as parliamentary chairman of the organization, citing his obligations as chairman of the Human Rights Committee; Representative Ayman Abul Alaa was chosen as his replacement. The move comes as several FEP parliamentarians had reportedly joined the Coalition in Support of Egypt, which is currently seeking to establish itself as a formal political party.

Notable Developments

Representatives’ Meeting with Sadat Creates Controversy:

The state budget was a prominent topic of debate during the past week in the House of Representatives, beginning with parliament approving the Budget Committee’s final report for the 2016–17 fiscal year. Following the body’s approval of the final report, Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ‘Al asserted that the 2016–17 budget report did not include any discrepancies nor any constitutional infringements. Similarly, the House agreed in principle to the final state budget for the 2018–19 fiscal year during plenary session. Despite the House approving the 2018–19 budget in principle, the Budget Committee demanded that the Ministry of Finance increase the appropriations for the health and education sectors, though a specific monetary value was not mentioned. Currently, the budget designates 115.6 billion Egyptian pounds (LE) for the education sector and LE61.8 billion for the health sector, which accounts for 8 percent and 4 percent of the total budget, respectively.  These figures are far below the constitutional budget requirements mandating that the health sector’s budget comprise no less than 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and 4 percent of GDP for the education sector.

Israeli Violence Draws Representatives’ Outrage:

Over 60 Palestinian protesters were killed by Israeli armed forces along the Gaza border this week, as the protesters observed Nakba Day[1] and demonstrated against the opening of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem. The violence was decried by numerous representatives and parliamentary institutions, each asserting different claims in regards to the situation. Committees in the House such as the Religious Affairs and Arab Affairs Committees condemned the violence used by Israeli security forces, while also blaming the United States and Israel for their violations of international law and hostility toward the Arab world. Meanwhile, the Wafd Party issued a statement condemning the deaths and calling on the international community to pursue criminal charges against the perpetrators of the violence. Abdel ‘Al also decried the opening of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem as a rejection of international law.

Alaa Abed Replaced as Free Egyptians Party’s Parliamentary Chairman:

FEP Chairman Essam Khalil announced that the party voted to remove Alaa Abed from his position as parliamentary chairman of the organization because of his obligations as Human Rights Committee chairman. Representative Ayman Abul Alaa of the Health Committee replaced Abed as the group’s chairman in the House. Abed congratulated Alaa on his new position within the organization, while also asserting his commitment to the party as an individual member. This leadership reshuffling follows the decision of several FEP members to join the Coalition in Support of Egypt.

Other Developments

In Legislation:

Galal Awara of the Media Committee stated that the committee completed its discussions of the Media Regulations Law and expects it to be referred to the general body of parliament in the near future. The bill is the second half of the long-awaited Media Bodies Law, which outlines the rules associated with media operations.

The House approved the government’s Leasing and Financing Law in principle. The law will mandate financing for small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as the country’s economic courts tasked with resolving legal issues pertaining to the law.

The House approved the government’s amendments to the Egyptian Products Law. The law defines which manufactured products are subject to its jurisdiction, the types of companies that fall under the law’s oversight, and it issues a fine ranging from 50,000–500,000 Egyptian pounds (LE) for noncompliance of the legislation.

The House approved the General Authority for the Development of Manufacturing Law in its entirety after previously agreeing to it in principle on January 15. The law establishes an independent economic body that regulates industrial activity in Egypt. The commission will have its own budget under the oversight of the Central Auditing Organization.

The House approved amendments to the 1992 Oil Exploration Law between the Ministry of Petroleum and the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation to support oil exploration in North Sinai.

The House approved amendments to the Mayors Law, which allows the Ministry of the Interior to determine which provinces fall under their jurisdiction to manage.

The House approved the Food Cart Regulation Law in its entirety after previously agreeing to it in principle on April 16. The law requires individuals seeking to operate food carts be at least 18 years old and possess a valid license to manage the business.

The House approved in principlethe Development Authority of Southern Egypt Law, which establishes a commission to promote social and economic development in Upper Egypt.

The House approved in principle the Clinical Trials Law, which organizes clinical research of humans under a framework respecting of human rights, while also promoting the interests of scientific research.

The House approved the Social Housing Law after previously agreeing to it in principle on April 24. The law creates a fund under the Ministry of Housing’s jurisdiction to assist low-income families with finding stable housing, while also providing for the construction of low-income housing facilities.

The House approved amendments to the Railway Travel Law, which increases the severity of penalties for attempted theft on the railway to a fine of LE20,000 and one year’s imprisonment.

The Local Administration Committee approved the Commercial Shops Law, which combines three separate draft legislation regarding Public Shops, Amusement Parks, and Trade Shops. The bill will establish a central committee to oversee the licensing and operational procedures for each of these three types of commercial settings.

The Defense Committee approved Representative Muhammad al-Husseini’s amendments to the Concierge Law, which would provide a database of workers in the field to promote their economic and social welfare.

Bassem Felayfil of the Suggestions and Complaints Committee submitted an amendment to the State Property Disposition Law, which would reduce the fees associated with the disbursement of land in order to support low-income individuals.

In Session:

The Communications Committee held a meeting with officials from the National Telecommunications Institute to discuss environmental safety measures with phone service centers.

Representative Nadia Henry and Hoda Badran, chairwoman of the Egyptian Women’s Union, penned a letter to Abdel ‘Al imploring the House to introduce a law “obligating all parties and judicial bodies” to allow women to apply for judicial posts in accordance with Article 11 of the constitution.

The Arab Affairs Committee issued a statement recommending the adoption of a code of conduct for members of the media to abide by, claiming that this will help prevent the dissemination of false news.

Following a lack of quorum in both sessions, Abdel ‘Al  threatened to announce the names of representatives who did not attend plenary session Sunday or Monday.

In News and Statements:

Wafd Party Spokesman Yasser al-Hudeibi announced on behalf of the group that the party will be organizing a meeting in the near future for all political parties to meet and discuss the formation of two or three official political parties, as suggested by President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi.

Similarly, Coalition in Support of Egypt Secretary-General Magdi Murshid echoed Abdel ‘Al’s call for greater political dialogue in parliament through a two-party system. Murshid stated that the multitude of independent representatives detracts from this meaningful debate.

Khaled Dawoud resigned from his position as Dostour Party head over the weekend. His resignation follows the internal turmoil among party leadership who annulled Dawoud’s election as party president in 2017. The Dostour Party does not hold any seats in the House.

Mustafa al-Kemar of the Local Administration Committee praised Sisi’s pardon of over 300 individuals, declaring it as an expression of Sisi’s support for youth.

The Coalition in Support of Egypt released a similar statement praising Sisi’s recent pardon as representative of his affinity for the youth population and his commitment to Egypt’s future.

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tariq Radwan praised the recently signed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam agreement between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan. While Radwan asserted that the pact is not a final resolution to the issue, he stated that the deal is a positive step for all countries involved.

Abdel ‘Al invited recently elected Pan-African Parliament Speaker Roger Enkudu to hold the body’s agriculture committee meeting in Egypt in August.

Representative Megdi Malek of the Agriculture Committee and Representative Tharwat Bekheit of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, both of whom are Coptic Christians, thanked Sisi for securing the return of the bodies of the 20 Christian citizens killed in Libya by the Islamic State in 2015.

The Wafd Party and Conservative Party cohosted a workshop to discuss the continued development of small businesses and potential reforms to these entities.

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tariq Radwan and committee member Tariq al-Khouli traveled to South Korea to meet with their counterparts in the South Korean House of Representaitves, and they expressed their disapproval with South Korea’s continued travel restrictions for its citizens to Egypt.

Looking Ahead

  • The Budget Committee is expected to meet with Finance Minister Amr al-Garhy to discuss the committee’s request to increase the 2018–19 state budget allocations for the education sector by LE43 billion and the health sector by LE20 billion.
  • Muhammad al-Husseini of the Local Administration Committee will submit a request to Abdel ‘Al to hold extended discussions of the draft Local Administration Law, stating that its extensive reach will require at least one week of debate in general session.
  • The House will reconvene in a general session on June 3.

[1] Nakba Day commemorates the anniversary of 700,000 Palestinians fleeing or being forced to relocate from their homes during the founding of Israel in 1948.